By Your Side – Tenth Avenue North

Thinking About Things

Excerpts from Romans 7:21 – 8:16
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you…. So, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you keep on following it, you will perish. But if through the power of the Holy Spirit you turn from it and its evil deeds, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family — calling him “Father, dear Father”. For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.

Truths from this that I want to highlight (and remember):

  • I have a sinful nature. It’s part of the package I got when I was born, due to the Adam & Eve thing… I will not be rid of this sinful nature until heaven. It will continue to be a factor in my life until then. Sometimes I feel that God blames me for not being perfect – for being born with this sinful nature. But God doesn’t condemn me for having that sinful nature. In fact, he sent Jesus to free me from the obligations to it.
  • When I get lazy and revert to my “natural state”, my sinful nature emerges and my thinking drifts to sinful things, I fall into doing sinful things, and I feel “hostile to God”.
  • That state of hostility is not irreversable. I have “no obligation whatsoever to do what my sinful nature urges [me] to do”. Once again I’m reminded that I have the power to choose. I often feel like I am a slave to my feelings. I get tired of fighting against the fear, worry, anger, frustration that I feel. But Jesus did what he did so that I have a choice.
  • As I am reading in “The 4:8 Principle”, I have to exercise that choice, consciously, to think about things that please the Spirit.

So, that’s my goal today….to be conscious of my thoughts. To move them onto God, and things that please Him.

Exposure

Sometimes when I finally “get it” it hurts. My heart hurts from the joy, sadness, relief, wonder. I am in disbelief that God just talked to me. Little ol’ me. He just put things into place in front of me in a way that clicked. The best kind of learning. The joy of dots being connected in my mind and heart. No, not the discovery of the meaning of life, but almost.

I had one of those moments this morning. My heart hurts with the joy of wanting to just tell everyone exactly what happened, how it happened, in the hopes of sharing that kind of moment with others. I know I can’t re-create it. I think it was the infinitesimally brief moment of connection with God. Any more than that and I think it would literally kill me.

Several nights ago I got another brief message that I recognized as “from God”. The message was simple. “Expose yourself” (in relation to Him). I’ve started to realize that these mini messages can mean any number of things. Does that mean “expose” in the sense that I need to be more brutally honest about myself TO God? Or does that mean “expose” in the sense that I need to be more exposed to God as a form of input – face time with God. Though I am trying to improve on both areas, the latter seemed the more important.

Since I don’t have a regular morning devotional book, and I’m not currently using any kind of regulated Bible reading plan, I spent a day or so mulling over what more exposure to God would mean. I settled on reading the Gospels. I haven’t spent time there in a long time.

As I’ve recently shared, I struggle with legalism, and yet any mention of the Law in the Bible throws up a mental road block. Today I was reading in Matthew 5. Verses 17-20 are where I found my “a ha!”. I want to share my journal entry because, well, I want to put it out there in case someone else needs the same message I got today.

The verse I read in my version of the NLT

Matthew 5:17-20 NLT
[Jesus talking here – giving the “Sermon on the Mount”] “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God’s law will remain until it’s purpose is achieved. So if you break the smallest commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. but I warn you — unless you obey God better than the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees do, you can’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all!”

My Journal Notes:

“September 19, 2008
Matt 5:17-20
Did Jesus say all of this to highlight the “old way”? He’s talking about your/our ranking in the K of H, then closes saying unless we’re perfect following the law we’re out of luck anyway…

It’s hard sometimes because Jesus’ death changed it all, so it is confusing to me to read his words to know if what he says is part of the old or the new.

God has absolute requirements (the law). Those requirements have literally no way of being met.

God can’t change who He is. Those requirements are facts. Laws of God are Laws of Nature. He didn’t arbitrarily choose them, they just are. Jesus came to fill the requirement so we could have that relationship with God.

This is the part that swirls my brain.
— God and sin can’t coexist – it’s one of the “rules”, “laws”, “facts”.
— God’s “laws” are just examples of many many ways to illustrate what sin/evil/wrong is.

Jesus, in the rest of chapter 5, was establishing that he wasn’t a dissenter, a rabble-rouser, a radical trying to change the truth about God. He was telling the people that the God of the Jews is still the same God, his laws are even more difficult (impossible) to keep, but still to be desired. They [the laws] were still in force and always will be. Laws = Right. But he came to fulfill them because we are not capable. He is the SOLUTION to: How can God and I be in a close relationship when I am a sinful human and God cannot be connected with sin?”

Legalism in my life is when I think that I somehow can work harder to meet God’s requirements of perfection. Any striving I do in that area leaves me bitter and angry. I will NEVER be able to modify my behavior in a way that is good enough. Never. If I end there, then I’m miserable.

God so badly wants to be with me (us) anyway that he worked up a plan that would take care of his laws and would restore our relationship. That plan was Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the requirements (laws) with his perfection, took the (undeserved) punishment for sin FOR us. Because of Jesus, I do not have to struggle to live up to anything in order to be connected to God. God is not repelled by my sin any longer. If I accept all this (everything I’ve written here), then Jesus’ life and death are EVERYTHING to me. It’s my way out of legalism. It’s my restoration. It’s my hope.

Hey, guess what! That’s “Good News”! 😉

Seriously, though, I know what I have written is very simple to some. Being stuck in legalism is nasty. It’s a place of “not getting it”. So many voices saying “But it CAN’T be that simple…”. I think it is.


– – – – – – – –

Post Script:
The K-Love verse of the day…

This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
~ 1 John 4:10, NLT

Day 5 – 60-60 Experiment

There’s a lot going on in my head, in my life, in my spirit.  I have wanted to blog about it several times, but I don’t yet have the words.

This Experiment has, so far, been the most profoundly impactful thing I’ve done.  It’s bringing things to the forefront that I haven’t really dealt with yet.  It’s humbling me and refining me.  It’s also giving me a level of connection with God that I don’t know if I’ve maintained very often, but don’t want to do without.

I got a copy of Soul Reflection yesterday (Thanks, Mike!), and I can tell you this…when it’s released, I’ll be recommending it to anyone who wants to change their life.

God is good.  God is here among us.  And he’s ready for you, whenever you ask!

Woman at the Well

I get it.

I get it. The Good News. I think I’m finally getting it.

Romans 5:1-11 (NLT)

Faith Brings Joy
1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

My precious Jesus. I get it. Please, please, please, help me keep it!

Who do I follow?

I recently had another dethroning of one of my idols. I have the tendency to look for people who have what I want and idolize them. A fitter body, a cleaner house, a more faithful devotional life.

One by one, my idols have fallen out of my grace. It’s no fault of their own. They are after all, just human. God is just letting me see their humanity, sometimes in rather painful ways, in order to get my attention. You see, He’s the one I’m supposed to be following. He does not want to share my focus. He is a jealous God.

The hard part for me of course is that I like rules. I like the freedom of feeling like all will be well if I just follow the “rules” provided by [insert guru of your choice here]. I want to be guaranteed that if I do A, B and C, I will be rewarded with X, Y, and Z. But I am learning that life is not like that. At least not in the tangible. God does give promises, but what he promises is not about things or activities or circumstances. It’s about His presence, His protection, His control.

So, I am once again seeking to fill a recently vacated position of leadership in my life. I know God is the only candidate, but I’m going to have to adapt the position to suit.

Poverty has not been my experience, but God has allowed in the lives of each of us some sort of loss, the withdrawal of something we valued, in order that we may learn to offer ourselves a little more willingly, to allow the touch of death on one more thing we have clutched so tightly, and thus know fullness and freedom and joy that much sooner. We’re not naturally inclined to love God and seek His Kingdom. Trouble may help to incline us – that is, it may tip us over, put some pressure on us, lean us in the right direction.
– Elisabeth Elliot, in Keep a Quiet Heart, p. 39

Lifehouse – Everything

find me here
speak to me
i want to feel you
i need to hear you
you are the light
that is leading me
to the place where
i find peace again
you are the strength
that keeps me walking
you are the hope
that keeps me trusting
you are the life to my soul
you are my purpose
you are everything
and how can i
stand here with you
and not be moved by you
would you tell me
how could it be
any better than this
you calm the storms
you give me rest
you hold me in your hands
you won’t let me fall
you still my heart
and you take my breath away
would you take me in
would you take me deeper now
’cause you’re all i want
you are all i need
you are everything
everything

Lyrics On Demand

Beth Saves the Day!

I have been having a challenged day. It started late last night when I had absolutely nothing to write. I found a nice video to post here, but nothing to write for Faith Lifts. The words just dried up. I stayed up until 1:30a trying, but finally gave up because it was just not going to happen.

This morning has been equally…unconventional…and I don’t like that. My head is a mess. I am tired. I am vulnerable and defensive. Uck.

Then one of my dearest girlfriends, Beth, offered to write a devotional in my place. So, please, take a minute and join us at Faith Lifts!

A Group Blog for Christian Moms

Writing

Lord, I don’t know what lies within. But this writing is to take the time to listen to You and find. And then, to take up a different life.
— Ann, at Holy Experience

So much of my writing is reflecting on what was or what is, but what it should really become is a way to pour out so I can change.

Lord, I am still just a hearer, and not a doer. I hear a lot of things.

The laundry being spun. The cheerful, but as of yet unintelligible, chatter of a near 2 year old. Squeals of alternating delight and disappointment as his faithful playmate, the dog, keeps a toy just out of his grasp.

A little here, a little there. Playing with building blocks. Squeezing two of them together, but then unable to separate them, squawks in frustration. “Bring it to mommy, and I will help you”, I hear myself say. But he’s thrown the blocks away and moved on to the next thing.

Ah, how much of myself I see in him. I try to do something, run into difficulty, and do not listen when my Father says “Bring it to me, child, and I will help you.” Instead, I decide that this new thing just doesn’t work, and discard it. Moving on to something else. And nothing else satisfies. Nothing else works. And I keep moving and searching and dabbling.

Lord, slow me down. Teach me to see. To wait. To bring all things to you for your help. In the way of a 2-year old, I want to do it all by myself. Trying to exert independence. Why? What will I gain. I come to you to be changed. To start to DO what it is that I’ve been thinking, talking and hearing about. Please show me what this doing looks like. It’s so easy for me to leap into legalism and striving and I know that there is a difference between striving and doing.

Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”
Luke 11:28